Is Apple pushing away professionals?

The traditional Mac loyalists in the creative industries are starting to turn their back on Apple, finds Stewart Mitchell

Macs have long been regarded as the natural home for creative professionals, even if Apple actually holds surprisingly little sway in a great many areas of design and media work.

However, a series of recent decisions has angered professionals – including the neutering of Final Cut Pro and the near-elimination of matte screens – spawning a belief that the company is turning its back on pros and seeking richer pickings from the scale of the consumer market that can’t get enough of the iPhone and iPad.

Will this agitation end in formerly loyal customers ditching the Mac platform they’ve supported through the lean, pre-iPod years? There are plenty of creative companies that are perfectly happy with Windows, and more are being tempted to join them.

Dominance exaggerated

It’s an unwritten rule that most creatives can’t be prised from their Macs, whether in publishing, graphic design or music. In truth, there are plenty of artistic industries that rely less on the flare and smoothness of OS X and more on the ubiquity, available software and power of Windows-based machines.

In the growing 3D industry, for example, Windows-based 3ds Max calls the shots, with professionals extolling the virtues of being able to present clients with 3D designs that are more flexible, but the software will only run on Macs that dual-boot into Windows.

For illustration and animation studio Finger Industries, taking its hand-drawn illustrations and turning them into 3D models, rather than flat 2D graphics, means clients can use them in campaigns from billboards to animated adverts. “As far as we’re concerned, it’s all 3D-based,” says Marcus Kenyon, founder of the company. “We use 3ds Max mainly, and that still only runs on a PC.

“You can run it on a Mac – because it’s running an Intel chip – but I have one at home and it isn’t very good for our illustration work. You still need PCs to work in 3D, and we use that for everything now.”

Video and music editing

Video editing has a die-hard Windows following, too, and although Apple has a healthy slice of the professional market (33%, according to the Institute of Videography), it’s by no means as pervasive as the product placements in TV and films would have us believe. “Although Apple makes solid, reliable kit, it isn’t very open, and there are so many different plugins and programs available on the PC that people buy into that,” says Kevin Cook, executive administrator of the Institute of Videography.

The relative cheapness of high-end components also increases Windows’ appeal to video professionals. “Since I’d invested in Windows software, you’re loathe to leave it behind, but the integration with [Adobe] Premiere on a PC and all the other programs I use makes me want to stick with the PC,” says Simon Marcus, director of video production company Addictive Media. “It’s also much cheaper, which is always a consideration.”

In music, too, we found that Macs weren’t necessarily top of the pops, with entertainment distribution and creation company Blueprint Digital using Macs only “to make sure things integrate with iTunes properly”.

Working on a PC

In the realm of CAD, although there are programs for Macs, the professionals we spoke to used Windows to run industry-standard software such as SolidWorks.

“Any sort of CAD software is all Windows-based, pretty much across the board,” says Matt Wyre, head of systems at Haughton Design, a consultancy specialising in high-end CAD work for engineering and products. “There’s nothing suitable out there that really runs on the Mac.

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